E. Cuniculi

Sudden head tilt, paralysis, uncontrollable spinning and rolling – these are the most common signs of a parasitic infection called E. Cuniculi (EC). It is said that a high percentage of rabbits have actually been exposed to the parasite, but only a few show signs of illness. The parasite can lie dormant for months and even years, and when the rabbit’s immune system weakens, it can become active affecting the rabbit’s organs.

It’s critical that you bring your rabbit to a vet that is experienced with E.Cuniculi once you suspect that your rabbit is infected with it. Immediate diagnosis and treatment must be done to be able to control the spread of the parasite and the damages it may cause.

Pumpernickel, Burrito’s brother, was the first rabbit we encountered who experienced EC. Back in 2012, it happened only a few months after we got Burrito, Bonchon and Pumpernickel, so it was such a sudden frightful experience.

As Pumpernickel’s mom recalls, one stormy night, Pumpernickel’s mom noticed him frantically circling around his enclosure. Aside from that, she noticed that his head kept tilting to one side and his other eye seemed to get “lazy.” Pumpernickel’s eye kept rolling back and forth. His appetite decreased and he also became lethargic.

He was brought to an exotic vet who suspected an ear infection, to which Pumpernickel was given treatment for along with an injection for ear mites. Not seeing any improvement, Pumpernickel’s mom seeked out a second opinion from a different vet. Thankfully, his diagnosis was correct as he diagnosed Pump with Torticollis (Head Tilt) caused by E. Cuniculi. So from there, Pumpernickel was given the correct treatment, which included Fenbendazole (a medicine that treats Parasites including E. Cuniculi), Metacam (an anti-inflammatory drug), and Enroflaxin (an antibiotic).

Pumpernickel’s mom recounts it as a very long and tiring journey for both of them. “He wouldn’t eat pellets or even veggies anymore. I resorted feeding him the only things he would eat – treats, fresh apple and pear slices. He lived off that, some Basil, and his medication for two months. I didn’t see much progress on the tilt. In fact, some days seemed worse. It was important to note the amount of care when it came to syringe feeds too. When he wouldn’t eat anything, I had to syringe feed him mushed pellets mixed with pineapple juice. It was tough for us both, but I wasn’t prepared to lose him. So we continued to soldier on. We eventually got a rhythm. I began to wean him off his medications around 2-3 months after ’cause I read that it could damage his liver too. Slowly, I noticed his natural appetite coming back. So although his head was still very tilted, I was so happy he was alive and eating again. 5 pellets a day eventually became a bowl.”

Knowing what Pumpernickel and his mom experienced teaches us that not every fight with E. Cuniculi is futile. Yes, it is a very disheartening experience, but there are rabbits that do make it out strong like Pumpernickel. As of writing, Pumpernickel is now a very sweet 10 year old senior bun with a strong and beautiful will to live.

He may be different from other rabbits, but that’s what makes him extra special. He still stumbles and loses his balance at times, especially when he’s grooming himself. He also has limited eyesight as he can only see with his one good eye (the one that’s facing upwards). He often leaves his cecotropes on the floor because he has a hard time reaching his behind to consume them immediately. He also cannot use a litter box as he can’t jump in and out because of his sensitive balance. Plus, he gets easily disoriented in new spaces too. But with the constant help from his humans, Pumpernickel is able to live a full and happy life despite the lifetime effects of EC. And despite facing so many hardships, Pumpernickel has always been the sweetest and most loving rabbit to his humans.

Even with EC, each bunny has a fighting chance to a full life, if proper care and attention is given. The most important thing, we believe, is the human’s perseverance and dedication in helping his/her rabbit getting through the tough times. While vets and medicines are effective in treating the parasite and other symptoms, the rabbit’s recovery will greatly depend on his/her human’s care and love.

For other sources on E. Cuniculi, you may check on the following sites,

https://www.mulberryvets.co.uk/pet-advice/e-cuniculi

https://www.petcarevb.com/rabbit-care/e-cuniculi/

https://rabbit.org/encephalitozoon-cuniculi/

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As we’re not able to check replies and comments as frequently as we’d like to, feel free to get in touch with our Instagram account @bunniespiggiesqc or send an email to rabbitomart@gmail.com 🙂

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